“New Entrants” in New Zealand

Thanks to Tony Ward for putting me onto this story:

Today Te Ururoa Flavell, a Maori Party Treaty spokesman in New Zealand, released a powerful analysis of a bill there. The Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill took many deliberate measures designed to eliminate the legal standards in effect in N.Z. that allow for youth – 16 & 17-year-olds – to be legally discriminated against in employment practices. No one in the Western world has to imagine that kind of discrimination – we all either live or have lived through that. What I want to imagine is a national government law specifically designed to combat youth discrimination! I am astonished.

The law specifically addressed rangatahi, or young people ages 15 to 24. In his analysis Mr. Flavell called for the active acknowledgment of the basic human rights of youth as laid out in the country’s Human Rights Act of 1993.

  • The right to freedom from discrimination.
  • The right to benefit from the anti-age discrimination provisions set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights.
  • The right to enjoy freedom of discrimination as the most fundamental freedom.
  • Freedom from elitism, sexism, religious intolerance, racism, ageism.
  • Freedom from discrimination against beliefs, against cultural values.
  • Freedom from discrimination as manifest in slavery, in racial profiling, in hate crimes, in ethnic cleansing.

Wow! If it isn’t enough to have a major political party spokesperson standing up on behalf of basic human rights for young people, Flavell goes further and says,

The original Bill convinced us that the discrimination that was being liberally experienced by young New Zealanders would stop… And so we voted to end age discrimination; to end ‘adultism’ – the predisposition towards adults which is seen in the ugly combination of prejudice married with power.

Wait, let me read that again! A major national party spokesman in an influential first world country just used the word ADULTISM. OMG!!! So not to get stupid, but I’m excited and bummed. Excited that this movement is truly global – which I knew in some respects and doubted in others – and bummed that this law seems destined for the gutters. An opposition party reworded the entire thing and changed the name. Flavell explains,

…[S]uddenly the… Bill became renamed. Discrimination was deleted. Abolition was abolished. A new vocabulary was created, introducing the new entrant to the workforce. Or as my colleague Hone Harawira called – it’s just another name for the Young Slave Bill. The select committee recommended that… young worker[s] after he or she turns 16 they will be paid at a “new entrant” rate.

This is a new term, as Darian Fenton explained during the committee stage, and I quote: “It is quite a strange term, particularly as it is used to describe school-children who are entering school for the first time.” A strange term – and a misleading term to make discrimination acceptable, the ongoing discrimination that these new entrants will be paid a lesser rate than even the minimum wage of adults.

It is a term of pretence – because it is not actually to describe NEW entrants to the workforce. Not a 50 year old new entrant; not a 30 year old new entrant; just 16 and 17 years old will be entitled to this measure of divide and rule.

During a testimony on behalf of the original bill, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission bill’s committee that:

  • The youth minimum wage has a significant impact on the earnings of young workers;
  • It perpetuates stereotypes about their capabilities and that they are worth less because they are young;
  • Paying 16 and 17-year-olds less than other workers breaches fundamental principles of fairness and equity.

Flavell goes on to say, “[Y]ou see, it is about fairness, justice, decent wages for decent work.” In breaking down the argument to that simple point, Flavell gets past the red herring of youth rights: This is not about youth advocating for the sake of youth. Instead, it is about citizens advocating for a healthy society.

Flavell’s Maori Party has vowed to fight against this “New Entrant” bill, and for the rights of youth. I stand with you Mr. Flavell, along with thousands of people worldwide who are working for “fairness, justice, decent wages for decent work” for all people – including children and youth. Thanks for taking my energy to a new level.

You can read Mr. Flavell’s speech here. Thanks again to Tony Ward for sending that over.

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